Friday, October 07, 2005

Tucker reflects on accomplishments at Knox, during 33-year career

Here's the story I did on our departing commanding general, Maj. Gen. Terry Tucker.

Tucker reflects on
at Knox, during
33-year career

By SPC. IAN BOUDREAU/Turret Staff Writer

Fort Knox Commander Maj. Gen. Terry Tucker, who will relinquish command of the Armor School and post to Maj. Gen. Robert Williams Wednesday, sat for a final interview Sept. 29 with the Turret.

Turret: How long have you been the commanding general of Fort Knox?

Maj. Gen. Terry Tucker: I got here in the middle of January, 2003, so by the time I leave it'll be almost three years.

What do you think has been the most exciting aspect of your job as the commander of Fort Knox?

There are a lot of things.

The first thing is how we've changed the way we train Soldiers. We don't train Soldiers today in almost any way, shape, or form the way we did it three years ago. We now train Soldiers, sergeants, lieutenants and captains to be prepared to go fight as opposed to join a unit. So that has really been exciting, the way we've made these wholesale, radical changes to the way we train young Soldiers.

The second thing is, and it's been exciting to me, to watch sergeants and young officers, civilians and colonels grow during my tenure here. When given the responsibility and authority to do business to make Fort Knox better and make our communities better, they accomplish the mission easier, quicker, and to a higher standard. So it's been exciting for me to watch Fort Knox leaders do incredible work for the Army.

What was the most unexpected element of your tenure here?

Probably just the realization of the magnitude of the responsibility and the scope of the position. Most people don't really have an understanding of what it is like to run an installation, to be responsible for training on that installation, and to be responsible for developing training for the entire mounted force on and off the installation. There's the doctrine and all the training literature that goes with all that, building the future force, personnel actions for the mounted force, and ... it just goes on.

The second unexpected aspect would probably be the decision to move the Armor Center to Fort Benning. That was certainly unexpected.

If there's a third one, it would be how well the local communities have rallied around the Soldiers and their families at Fort Knox. We've always had a good relationship with our local communities, but what I didn't understand was how important that is and how serious the communities really are about being part of Fort Knox, and letting us be part of their community, and doing things for Soldiers when there's a need.

As the commander of Fort Knox, you've had to deal much more with the local community. How have you adapted to the role of community leader, and what have you learned from that experience?

It's been easy for me to be involved with the local community. That's probably because all of our local communities have worked so hard to be good neighbors to us, and to be supportive of me and Patti.

There are seven communities around Fort Knox that we routinely associate with. When I got here, we did not really have much of a relationship with Louisville. It wasn't a bad relationship; we just didn't have much of a relationship. One of my objectives here has been to build a relationship with the City of Louisville, and to extend that as far as Lexington. And we've had some success with that. Look at what the Louisville Bats do for Soldiers and their families, along with the University of Louisville football and basketball athletics departments, the Parrish House, and a dozen other organizations in Louisville that actively look for ways to support Fort Knox Soldiers and families.

Just recently, because of the work we've done with the University of Kentucky in Lexington, we took nearly 5,000 Soldiers, family members, and retirees from the Fort Knox community to a football game in Lexington, as their guests.
So we're trying to be better neighbors and partners in the communities of Louisville and Lexington.

Radcliff cares about Fort Knox, our Soldiers and families. I am very happy with Fort Knox being part of the Radcliff community, and with the relationship we have together. Down the road, when the Armor Center departs, and the Human Resources Command, Accessions Command, a combat brigade, and other organizations come in here, there's a great opportunity for the relationship between Fort Knox and Radcliff to even grow stronger.

I suggest that Radcliff figure out what they want Radcliff to be 10 years from now, and then develop the strategy to bring Fort Knox along to fit into their strategy.
Radcliff is a great place to raise kids, build a small business, and a place to come to and stay if you want to be a part of Middle America.

What are some of your biggest accomplishments during your command of Fort Knox?

We've accomplished a lot in the past three years. I'm not sure that they're my accomplishments, but Fort Knox certainly has done a lot.

I mentioned earlier how we changed the way we train Soldiers. The fact is, we changed not only the way we train Soldiers at Fort Knox, but we changed the way Soldiers are trained all across the Army. All of TRADOC now trains Soldiers the way we train Soldiers at Fort Knox.
When the Chief of Staff of the Army and TRADOC commander decided two years ago to change the way we train, they asked us to do the pilot here at the 1st Armor Training Brigade. So we have radically altered the way we train Soldiers and leaders for the entire Army. And, I'll tell you, that's a major accomplishment.

But we have to be careful, because this isn't the first time we've done this. Every time we have a war, we realize that we have to change the way we train to prepare Soldiers to go fight that war. When the war is over, we then seem to regress to training an Army for peacetime. We did it after World War II, after Korea, after Vietnam, and we did it after Desert Storm. Our challenge for the future will be to not learn that lesson again after this war is won.

The other big accomplishment I'd suggest to you is that the Garrison command and staff that we have at Fort Knox is better than most installations around.
When I came back to Fort Knox as the deputy commanding general in the summer of 2000, having been away from Fort Knox for a few years, I looked around and saw that Fort Knox did not look the way I remembered it. I can remember when Fort Knox was a showplace in the Army. When I visited in 2002 , Fort Knox, like most Army installations, had been neglected for a while. It wasn't maintained as well as it had been in the past.

When I had an opportunity to come back in January of 2003, one of my goals was to make Fort Knox look like what I thought an Army post ought to look like. Now, when I walk around or I drive around Fort Knox, I'm pretty happy with the way it looks. There's still a lot of work to do, but in the last two years our Garrison and IMA have made Fort Knox look the way it does today. It's in better condition than it was two years ago.

Another major accomplishment has been the work we've done on the Abrams tank and the Bradley IFV in the last couple years. A few years ago, the Army decided it didn't need tanks anymore. And then we had a war, and the Army realized that you can't fight a war without an armored force. And so, since the Iraqi Freedom fight, we have recognized the value of the mounted force. That's allowed us to commit to determining how we can better maintain the Abrams and Bradley while also improving their lethality and survivability for the future.

A year and a half ago, I made a decision about our Abrams tanks. Currently, we have nine different versions of Abrams in the field, and some of them can't even operate together. I told Army leadership that we couldn't afford to have nine versions of Abrams tanks in the Army forever. We needed to have two versions.
A lot of hard work was done between the Abrams TRADOC Systems Manager and our Training Doctrine, Combat Development Directorate on post, TRADOC and the Department of the Army people.

We now have an Army decision to go to two tank variants. It's going to take us a bit longer than I'd like. It's going to take us five or six years to get there, but we will get there. We have begun to do the same thing with the Bradley fleet.
The Abrams and Bradley will carry us into the future to operate alongside the Future Combat Systems. They must be compatable.

What would you have liked to accomplish, but for one or another reason -- time, money, etcetera -- you weren't able to?

We don't have time for me to tell you all the things that we didn't get accomplished! There were a lot of things that we got started and just didn't get finished, and there were lots of things that I'd like to have done but never got started.

Let me give you a few examples. We need to change the organization, structure and the way we do reconnaissance for our Army. We've gotten that started, but we haven't come to a resolution. We don't have a dedicated reconnaissance vehicle in the Army today. We need one, and we're going to need one more in the future.
I would like to have figured out what the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning will look like before I left. I would like to have figured out what Fort Knox will look like five years from now -- there are a lot of people right now working to try to figure that out. I would like to have brought that some resolution before I got out of here, but there's work left undone.

The Army is in the process of a major transition, and Fort Knox has been touched and affected by many of the changes that are a part of this. Where do you see Fort Knox and the Armor branch going in the future?

The Army is now beginning to realize again that the mounted force offers more than just armor and cavalry. There is a growing realization that the mounted force is the most versatile force we can put into any operational environment, whether it's combat, humanitarian relief, or nation building. The mounted force gives us the opportunity to cover the entire spectrum of operations, from full-scale combat to passing out water and MREs.
The mounted force has the ability to operate mounted and dismounted. And today, in Iraq, we're doing both. As tankers, we have mounted warriors today in Iraq who are fighting on tanks in the morning and walking patrols in the city in the afternoon. There's no other force in the Army that has the agility and the versatility to do the kinds of things that the mounted force does routinely, and does very well. I think the Army is beginning to recognize that fact. That's been something we've worked real hard at.

Where is Fort Knox headed? You know, the President has signed and sent the BRAC recommendations to Congress, and my assumption is that Congress will agree with the President's recommendation. Then we'll go ahead with the execution part.

So over the next six or eight years, we will radically change Fort Knox. We will change what it looks like, how it operates, and what its priorities and missions are. The Home of Armor is not just Fort Knox. Downtown Radcliff and Elizabethtown, and the communities around us, that's the Home of Armor, because that's where thousands of retired Fort Knox Soldiers and civilians have elected to live.

Over time, that's going to change. As we transition Fort Knox from being the Home of Armor to the home of the Human Resources Command or Accessions Command, we're going to see not just Fort Knox, but the local communities change as a result.

At the same time, Fort Knox is going to be an operational Army installation. We're going to have a light infantry brigade, and combat service support units here, and more National Guard and Army Reserve. So we're going to keep that combat arms mentality. But both the makeup of Fort Knox and our local communities will change.

It's a positive change. I've said several times, once you get beyond the emotionalism of the Armor Center leaving, the BRAC decisions will be an incredible economic boon for this community.

As a brand-new lieutenant, where did you see yourself going then? What would you have thought then if someone had told you that you'd one day take command of Fort Knox?

I was raised on a West Virginia dirt farm. There is such a thing, by the way. I'm the only member of my family to graduate from college. My parents could have probably scraped to come up with enough money to get me through college. But I ended up going to college because the Army offered me a scholarship. And I accepted that Army scholarship as a way to get an education.

I came in the Army with the aspirations of serving the Army for four years to pay back the education they'd helped me get, and then I was going to get out of the Army and go do something else.
I joined the Army at Fort Knox, and I can remember standing in the middle of Sadowski Field House when I signed into the Army on a Monday morning, about three paces to the left of where I took command of Fort Knox nearly 31 years later. If somebody had suggested to me in May of 1972, when I signed into the Army at Fort Knox, that I'd come back to that same building and take command of this outfit, I and everybody around me would have had a good chuckle.

After I went to the (Armor) Basic Course my first assignment was as a typical platoon leader in Germany. I realized I liked it. It was exciting, it was interesting, it was educational. Patti and I got to travel and see a lot of Europe. We didn't make a whole lot of money, but neither did anybody else around us, so that was okay.

I figured out in those four years that I enjoyed what I was doing, so at the end of the four years, I had a decision to make: get out of the Army as I had planned, or stay in for a little longer. We decided to stay a while longer. And it's been that way for the last 30 years. Every assignment I've had, my wife and I have decided, "This isn't so bad." We enjoy it. We like what we do. I've had lots of great experiences, met incredible people, had friends I otherwise never would have had, been to places I would have never, ever gone, and I've had opportunities to serve. That's the way our career has been.

But if somebody had suggested in May of '72 -- or May of '82, or May of '92, for that matter -- that I'd come back and be the Chief of Armor for the American Army? I would not have believed that was an option.

Your replacement, Maj. Gen. Williams, has probably thought the same thing. He's stepping into a big role as the Chief of Armor and the commander of Fort Knox. What would you give him as a guiding philosophy or "watchword" to help him make that transition into taking the reins of Fort Knox?

I don't need to give General Williams a whole lot of guidance as he comes in. I don't think he's going to need it. But I'd share with him some things that have generally worked for me, and things that I've learned here.

I would say: understand the magnitude of the responsibility and stay focused on what's important. You can get mired down here every day in day-to-day, minor business. I've learned that if you do that, you tend to lose the vision for the installation and for the branch.
I would suggest to him to clearly articulate his vision for what he wants to have accomplished, give clear guidance and resources needed to do the work, and then rely on the subordinate commanders and directors at Fort Knox to execute that vision. If he'll do that, he will be pleasantly surprised every day with what he gets accomplished at Fort Knox.

Do you have any perceptions or reflections on your command as you prepare to leave?

I can give you a couple things.

I joined the Army when I was 22 or so, and spent four years before that going to school on Army scholarships. So from the time I was about 18, this is what I've been doing. Patti and I were married when we were in college, so we came into the Army together. It's really about all that she and I have known. We raised our kids in the Army, we traveled all over the world together with the Army, and now we're getting ready to leave it together. It's bittersweet.

Some days, I look forward to new challenges -- there are a lot of opportunities out there. But there are other days when I just don't want to leave Fort Knox at all. There are a lot of emotions for Patti and me.
I will miss just being around Fort Knox on a daily basis. Most of us don't give a lot of thought to listening to the cannon go off every day or hearing the bugle calls day and night. I will miss both.

Patti and I will miss the camaraderie of the folks who live on this post... (former Garrison commander) Col. Armstrong used to refer to this as the Golden-Gated Community. And you know, this really is a gated community in the truest sense of the term. Those of us who live inside the gate have a little different view of security, safety, and being part of a neighborhood and community on Fort Knox.
Patti and I will miss the neighborhood atmosphere that we may not have when we leave here and move into a community somewhere else.

We will miss the Army, Fort Knox, and Soldiers. May God continue to bless all three!


UPDATE: Open Trackbacks at Everyman Chronicles.
UPDATE: Open Trackbacks at Political Teen.
UPDATE: Open Trackbacks at Cao's Blog.
UPDATE: Open Trackbacks at Jo's Cafe.
UPDATE: Open Post at the Mudville Gazette.